Maintenance Requirements for Water Softeners, Conditioners, and Filters
While Denver-Boulder area water treatment facilities by most accounts do a good job of keeping our residential water supply clean and safe per government standards, many homeowners choose to go a step beyond in raising the quality of the water they use for eating, drinking, bathing, and washing. From whole-home water softeners, water conditioners, and inline cartridge canister filters, to point-of-use reverse osmosis filters, there are a range of proven water treatment products that can improve your home’s water quality.
If you currently enjoy the benefits of one or more of these products, or are considering adding one to your home, it is important to understand the maintenance requirements that will allow you to enjoy their benefits year after year. We’d like to take this opportunity to remind owners of these water quality products of routine maintenance that will keep their systems functioning at peak performance, as well as assist prospective owners in learning more before making a purchasing decision.
Water softeners are unique in their ability to treat hardness in your residential water supply. Through a process called ion exchange, undesirable minerals such as calcium and magnesium are captured in the softener and removed from the water. ‘Hard water’ can cause a host of problems ranging from dry skin and hair, annoying tub and sink deposits, to a host of potentially costly plumbing issues encompassing faucets, appliances that have automatic water valves, and even your water heater, to name just a few possible ‘victims.’
If you currently have a water softener in your home, you are probably aware that it needs a specially formulated salt in order to operate properly (NO table salt!), and that the levels of this salt in the unit should be checked and maintained regularly. Depending on factors such as the hardness of your home’s water supply, your usage habits, and the capabilities of your water softener, the salt may need to be topped off as often as once a month. In other cases, quarterly might be more appropriate. There is no hard-and-fast rule of thumb governing how often this should be done – each home and family is unique.
Special salt pellets are one popular form that water softener salt is available in, with crystals being another. Most water softeners are pretty owner-friendly in terms of the ease with which the salt level can be checked and more added. Owners’ manuals accurately spell out exactly what maintenance is needed for your specific unit, with clearly labeled diagrams and detailed written instructions. Of course, in the Denver-Boulder area, our water treatment specialists at Save Home Heat would be glad to assist if you have questions or if you would like our team to handle this checkup and maintenance for you.
Some annual maintenance procedures are also recommended in order to ensure your water softener continues to operate effectively. Along with a thorough inspection to check for wear and tear, these may include recharging (and cleaning) the salt resin bed, and cleaning the valves and tanks. In some cases, after extended use, if the unit needs a lot of internal cleaning, it might make sense to first compare the price of replacing those components (plumbing head and/or pressure vessel) with the cost of the labor to clean or rebuild the existing parts, before deciding how to proceed. They might be close, and in one case you end up with brand new parts.
Although the terminology can be a bit confusing at times (the wording is also used in a more general fashion), for the sake of this discussion a water conditioner is a type of water softener that does not use salt. A whole-house water conditioner may be a good option when the heavy water issue isn’t so significant that it requires a full-fledged water softener. Among the most popular water conditioner designs, and preferred by our team, are units that rely on creating opposingly charged particles in the water to help prevent scaling and corrosion inside piping and plumbing appliances. Being a much less maintenance- and labor-intensive option is great, so long as you properly match your needs with the unit’s capabilities.
One of the best features of the water conditioner our team recommends is that it doesn’t require any maintenance! It has a built-in backwash cycle that eliminates the need for cleaning or for other internal maintenance. These types of products operate off a ‘metered’ lifespan, with the unit recording the amount of gallons of water that has been treated, showing you when the end of the unit’s lifespan is approaching (in many cases, 10 to 15 years) and it’s time to start testing your water periodically in preparation for when it comes time to intall a new one.
Reverse Osmosis Point-of-Use Water Filters
Point-of-use reverse osmosis water filters are popular for their ability to make your tap water taste ‘pure,’ and are highly effective in treating a wide range of component, taste, and odor concerns. Many of these products can remove a broad scope of contaminants including fluoride, copper, nitrates, lead, arsenic, and much more.
Under normal operating conditions, a properly sized RO water filter should be serviced annually in order to maintain peak effectiveness. This important maintenance involves replacing several components which, depending on the model, may include a particle filter, and granular activated carbon and carbon block filters in its multi-stage design. In addition, the reverse osmosis membrane – the heart of the RO system – should be replaced every three to five years. Of course, as with all the products we’re discussing in this blog, the frequency of replacement can vary depending on the amount of usage.
Inline Cartridge Water Filters
Inline whole-house cartridge filters, also known as canister water filters, can help address a broad range of water quality issues in a generally more modest fashion than the other products discussed here.
These can be good options when your water quality needs are not overwhelming, and the product is properly chosen to match a specific priority.
Inline water filter cartridges may need to be replaced as often as quarterly (every 3 months), while in other cases, annual cartridge replacement may be adequate (though not as likely). For a handy homeowner, this is typically not a difficult procedure, and determining when to replace the cartridge can be as simple as comparing the appearance of a new filter cartridge with the existing one (similar to replacing your furnace filter). As with all of these products, more often is better than waiting too long!
Water Testing and Additional Considerations
The best way to start getting your arms around the frequency of maintenance required for your water treatment products is to have your system inspected by an expert, combined with having your water tested. In the Denver-Boulder metro area, our plumbing department at Save Home Heat Company can assist you with in-house testing of a variety of common water components such as chlorine, pH, and hardness. For more depth analysis, including the presence of certain heavy metals, we can direct you to reliable testing facilities such as the laboratory services offered by the State of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Having your home’s water tested will also help determine which products make the most sense for you to consider.
Water Conditioners, Water Filters, Water Softeners
Whether you’re interested in adding a new water treatment product to your home or simply want to make sure your current systems are properly maintained to ensure peak performance, in the Denver-Boulder metro area our highly skilled plumbing department at Save Home Heat is glad to provide expert service and low-pressure, professional advice and recommendations. If you’d like to learn more or to schedule a free install quote, please contact our team today.